I am lucky to get a break from my work and plan to spend 7 weeks in euopre from beginning of August till late September. I have never been to the continent and want to plan my first trip to have both breath and depth. All the guidebooks i brought think it is a very bad idea to go to France, Italy, Spain, etc. at August because of the crowding tourists. Where is the more 'tolerable' places to go at August then? ( I will probably spend a week in Switzerland & German since those countries are cooler than Southern Europe)
Going North-South is probably a good general plan, but you will find crowds wherever there are great sights. So if that is what is worrying you, I suggest expecting some crowds and planning a few strategic rural breaks in your itinerary.
I have heard that Paris is less crowded in August because so many Parisians are on vacation.
Seven weeks is spectacular--have a great time!
Another reason to play your trip carefully at that time is that many Europeans take THEIR vacation during August. Austria, Netherlands, etc. Be sure to check "local" schedules to be sure that there won't be too many business closures.
Try to plan a loop/circle. It is cheaper to start and end in the same place. An "open jaws" begins in one place and ends elsewhere. It is more expensive when renting a car. Rent a car. Use Andy Bestor. Just google his name. I have been in Paris and France and the crowds were very manageable compare to other times. Portugal is wonderful. Beach is like the Rivera. You can go over to Morocco (not all that hot) from Spain. Rick's books are very helpful!! Enjoy!!
It is difficult to plan for weather. We decided on our last trip (2006) to go to Budapest bcuz we thot it wouldnt be hot in late summer-- it was 95!!!
Granted, heat waves in Europe are uncommon but they happen. That said, Paris is a must and Belgium and Holland are excellent for your purpose as you have the time. See Berlin and if you can, enjoy Poland. We cannot say enuf about Poland--spent 5 weeks there
We were in Spain the last 2 weeks of August. The historic, tourists sights were mostly uncrowded because everyone goes to the ocean in August. The beaches were wall to wall people!
We spent a week in Paris in August 2006. Many small businesses were closed, but the main attractions were open and very busy with tourists. It was strange seeing Paris half-deserted.
One thing to know about is that around August 15 they have a very heavy travel weekend in France - like Labor Day or Thanksgiving in the States, and it is an incredible zoo at the airport. Travel before or after then!
may I suggest northern Germany near the Baltic Sea? Tourists rarely go there and it is beautiful, great trains or autobahns. Lot's to see and hardly the crowds. Try the Schleswig-Holstein area, there are lovely islands you can take ferries to and wait out the heat and crowds. Lubeck, Hamburg, Kiel, Flensburg...I would not go to the south in August, the current news is Athens was 110 F last week, don't expect air conditioning every where like we are used to!.